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Google Doodle Honors First Woman Admitted to Harvard Medical School

Tuesday's Google Doodle honors the first woman admitted as a student at Harvard Medical School and the founder of the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines.

Tuesday's Google Doodle paid homage to Fe Villanueva del Mundo on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Google Screen Capture

By now most Internet users are familiar with Google Doodles, a program in which Google illustrators make changes to the company's logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists. Tuesday's Google Doodle caught our attention as it paid homage to Fe Villanueva del Mundo on what would have been her 107th birthday.

The first woman admitted as a student of Harvard Medical School, del Mundo founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines. Her pioneering work in pediatrics in the Philippines, in an active medical practice, spanned 8 decades. 

The story behind del Mundo's acceptance into Harvard is interesting, considering Harvard did not officially admit women into its medical program until 1945.

After graduating from the University of the Philippines Manila at the head of her class in 1933 and scoring highly on her medical board exam, Filipino President Manuel Quezon offered del Mundo a full scholarship to any U.S. medical school to study the specialty of her choice. The ambitious young woman chose Harvard, not realizing that the school didn't admit women.

Likewise, Harvard did not realize del Mundo was a woman until she arrived in 1936. The head of the pediatrics department made an exception, however, and she was allowed to stay in the program, according to a special report published in 2007 by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Her postgraduate studies included Harvard, Boston, and Columbia followed by a residency at Billings Hospital in Chicago, IL and a research fellowship back at Harvard. Despite many attractive opportunities to stay and practice in the United States, del Mundo said she wanted to go home and help the children of her own country.

She went on to open the first children's hospital in the Philippines, among many other notable accomplishments in the field. Del Mundo died Aug. 6, 2011, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

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